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Newspapers Dropping Comics - Not a Smart Move
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It is with great disappointment, and no small amount of confusion, that I learned of the New York Post’s recent decision to entirely drop the comics page from its publication. As the current president of the National Cartoonists Society, and being that the NCS is an organization of professional cartoonists among whose members are the creators of the majority of the comics that used to grace the Post’s comics page, the reason for the disappointment is obvious. The confusion is another matter.
We all know the role of newspapers and print media in this electronically interconnected world has changed. They used to be the prominent source of breaking news and opinion on that news in this country. That is no longer the case thanks to the 24/7 nature of the Internet and the continued evolving of how the public consumes its media and entertainment. Today breaking news is old news by the time any newspaper hits the doorstep or the corner newsstand. Handheld devices like smartphone and tablets have untethered the internet from our desktop computers and allowed us to take it along on the bus, the train, into the coffee shop, or wherever we wish to read about what’s going on in the world. Daily newspapers especially have a lot of stiff competition for reader’s eyes these days.
That’s where the confusion sets in concerning The New York Post’s decision to drop the comics page-and frankly the attitude towards the comics by most newspapers over the last several decades. The one strength newspapers and other print publications still have is that they can collect and present perhaps less timely but still relevant expanded news, opinion, and entertainment, written by vetted professionals into a convenient publication of great interest to a local market. Focusing on entertainment and more than a 140 character story on topics that readers still care about seems to me to be the best hope for the continued survival of newspapers. The daily comics are one of the most popular and read sections of newspapers, yet they have been treated like an afterthought for a long time by the editors and publishers of dailies. Despite being a truly American art form with a long and rich tradition and a tremendous following, newspapers have been shrinking the comics to postage-stamp size for years now, and have been reluctant or completely against adding in new, fresh cartoons that might have interest and relevance to younger readers. Now, we have a major newspaper dropping the comics entirely... perhaps one of the few sections that is read by virtually everyone who opens the paper. That seems to be cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. It’s like a restaurant dropping one of its most popular items, one that keeps people coming back to their establishment, because it costs a bit more to make than the rest of the menu. What’s next, the sports section? Surely it costs a lot to pay beat reporters to cover multiple sports teams. I understand that front page headline copy costs money, too.
No one disputes that newspapers are struggling in the face of rising costs and declining readership. However, I don’t believe it is a smart business move to eliminate, in the name of cutting costs, one of the most popular and read parts of a newspaper like the comics pages. It is one of the sections readers enjoy the most, and isn’t providing things readers want to read the first priority of any publication?
Tom Richmond is the Reuben Award winning president of the National Cartoonists Society; he’s best known for his artwork in Mad Magazine where Tom has drawn Mad’s trademark movie and TV parodies since 2000.